What’s in Your Fanny Pack?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman

I’ve noticed that the fanny pack has made a comeback this Summer. For those who are loathe to carry a handbag or “man bag,” the fanny pack offers an alternative catch all big enough to hold a water bottle, sunscreen, cell phone and other heat wave necessities.

The light-weight, just-enough space, hands-free appeal of the fanny pack offers an interesting schematic inspiration for risk management policies in a nonprofit: portable, accessible, easy to reach, and essential. Throughout the year the Center reviews policy manuals, employee and volunteer handbooks and risk management programs for a wide range of nonprofits. These policy reviews are typically conducted as part of a risk assessment. Many of the manuals and handbooks we review are weighed down with jargon or impaired by inconsistent statements. Some contain paragraphs (or pages!) of disclaimer language in BOLD AND ALL CAPS WHICH MAKES THESE SECTIONS HARD TO READ. I find it ironic that so many handbooks draw attention to “what this isn’t” at the expense of essential “do’s” and “musts.” I know what some readers are thinking: “my lawyer made me do it.”

If an “evacuation” of your files was necessary and you only had a minute to fill a fanny pack with risk management essentials, what would you bring? Here’s a list of what I’d cram into my neon yellow fanny pack:

  • A short reminder that we welcome complaints and feedback. Not a complicated form requiring the complaining party to jump through fiery hoops or navigate an unfriendly voice mail system, but a gentle statement telling stakeholders that your opinions matter and both compliments and complaints are welcome.
  • A list of our interdisciplinary risk management committee. My “dream team” has representatives from several levels in the organization, and includes staff as well as volunteers and an outsider or two.
  • An overview of our Enterprise Risk Management program, including an illustration of our “bird’s eye view” of risk, a short narrative on our evolving risk appetite and a list of strategies for managing risk at the intersections of organizational life.
  • An index card with my “go to” Web resources on managing risk and reward.

Melanie Lockwood Herman is Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. She welcomes your questions about managing risk in the nonprofit world, feedback on this article and questions about the Center’s resources at Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org or703.777.3504. The Center provides risk management tools and resources at www.https://nonprofitrisk.org/ and offers consulting assistance to organizations unwilling to leave their missions to chance. Read about how our training and consulting services make a difference on our testimonials page.